American Airlines’ Response to Autistic Passenger Who Was Too Sick to Fly Goes Viral

With the bustling strangers, security checks, loudspeaker announcements and clash of countless conversations, an airport can be an overwhelming place for anybody—but for someone with autism, that sensory overload translates into a total nightmare.

Such was the case for Will K.

One American Airlines passenger, Shaina Murry, was passing through the Dallas airport when she noticed Will lying on the floor. Seeing as he appeared distressed and unwell, she called for help from the medical staff on duty. The frantic young man was scared he was going to miss his flight home to see him mom for Christmas.

But instead of dismissing his concerns as petty, the staff went above and beyond to pay special attention to Will’s every need. Concerned that he would be too sick to fly, both the medical team and his mother (via phone) encouraged Will to get something in his belly before boarding.

To ensure he stayed calm and felt comfortable, Shaina purposely delayed her own flight in order to get a bite to eat with her new friend.

But the most amazing part of it all is how American Airlines responded to Will and Shaina’s unique situation during this busy holiday travel season. Shaina details the heartwarming story in a Facebook post that has now gone viral via Love What Matters:

Today I purposely delayed my flight. And will always fly American Airlines from now on. Here is why: while on the phone getting ready to go find my gate I noticed a man (his name is Will K.) laying on the floor, not doing well- he was in distress. It was clear something was wrong, I just didn’t know what. It seemed best after asking him a few questions to call for medical assistance. After him telling me several times he was afraid he was going to miss his flight while waiting for the airport medical team to come assist him I realized that he most likely is autistic. That triggered me to switch gears.

Facebook/Shaina Murry

After giving him assurance about his flight time we called his mom and let her know he wasn’t feeling well- and seeing the medical team at Dallas Airport. After much back and forth with the airport medical team, his mom, (who confirmed he was autistic) and American Airlines the medical team said he needed to eat and have something to drink and they were worried he would get sick again and didn’t know if he should fly. I worked with American Airlines and the medical team at Dallas and told the medical team I would change my flight, grab some lunch with him and make sure he got on his flight ok—American didn’t charge me a dime for the flight change and even called me when he and I were eating lunch together to let me know his gate changed.

When I dropped him off at his gate-for his flight the American Airlines team took great care of him, checked on him and made sure he boarded safely to go see his Mom for Christmas. Today was not at all what I pictured it to be. It has turned out so much better. American Airlines handled the situation with such professionalism and care. The medical team at Dallas as well as police were also just as amazing. Every once and awhile we all need a little help. Regardless of disability, age, or social status. Thanks for making my day Will!

Kelsey Straeter
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Kelsey is an editor at Outreach. She’s passionate about fear fighting, freedom writing, and the pursuit of excellence in the name of crucifying perfectionism. Glitter is her favorite color, 2nd only to pink, and 3rd only to pink glitter.